Finished shift

The piece of shi(f)t is done!

I practiced my deep breathing, and ended up removing and re-sewing the backwards sleeve, plus removing and resewing the backwards cuff.

Then onto a new skill for me, handmade buttonholes. I went off of instructions from The Sewing Academy.

Here are my practice attempts, the left with buttonhole silk twist, and the right with a doubled piece of cotton thread.


I wish I had a thread in between these two sizes. I ended up going with the doubled-length of cotton, since I thought the silk was too big.

My actual buttonholes did not end up this pretty, because there were more layers of linen in the cuffs, and they got a bit temperamental. But, they are mostly covered up by the sleeve buttons anyways!

And finally this evil shift was done!


My favorite part by far, are these adorable sleeve buttons from William Booth Draper.


Bonus, they save you from having to do any kind of complicated cuff.

My other favorite part is the teensy 1/8″ rolled hem on the neckline. Linen makes it really easy to do this kind of hem.


And extra super bonus, this qualified for the January Historical Sew Monthly!

The Challenge: Firsts and Lasts. This is the last item for my robe a la francaise  (was wearing a tank top underneath until now), as well as being the first item for a new 18th century gown I have planned (blog post coming!). It was also the first time I made buttonholes by hand.

Material: Linen

Pattern: Sharon Burnston’s pattern and instructions, with the sleeves significantly shortened and narrowed.

Year: 1780s ish. The sleeves would be fuller and longer for earlier in the century.

Notions: Pewter cuff buttons, cotton thread.

How historically accurate is it? Eh. Historical aspects – I handsewed this using period techniques, it’s made from linen. Unhistorical – I used cotton thread instead of linen. The linen is not as fine as what you would find in period. However, I rate it exactly 50%. The reason being – shift linen was much narrower in the 1700s, being exactly the width you needed your shift to be (around 30″). This would allow you to cut your gores and attach them by whipping the selvedge edges together. Since I used modern linen that was 60″ wide, I had to flat fell all my gores and seams, because I didn’t have the selvedge to work with. So, because flat felling is twice as many seams as would be in period, I am taking half off my accuracy score.

Hours to complete: 40? More? This shift absolutely would not cooperate. As described, I had to take in the sleeves twice, sewed in a sleeve backward, and one cuff backwards. I sewed cuffs *4 times* for a shift that has only two arms.

First worn: Not yet! Probably some time in April. At the latest, when I dress up in costume to see Hamilton in May.

Total cost: $37 for linen (although I have about half leftover that isn’t the full width, so say 18.50), and $9 for pewter sleeve buttons.

Now for some photos with my stays. The purple fabric draped over some fabric rolls was an attempt to create a pretty photography background. Yeah, it needs some work. Plus the fact that this room has no overhead lighting and only one lamp…




Stays are still my favorite thing I’ve ever made. And no, they still aren’t lined.


You can only get a shift neckline this close to the stays by trying it on before fully cutting/hemming the neck.


I’m still not entirely convinced that the sleeves are short enough. I’ll have to shove them up above my elbow to not show under a fancy gown.

This entry was posted in 1700s, 18th c shift, Undergarments. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Finished shift

  1. Amira/Sara! says:

    I don’t know what the weight of the silk thread is like, but would embroidery floss work to get you that in-between thread thickness?

    Also, gorgeous work!

    • avantgarbe says:

      That’s not a bad idea, especially since I could choose how many threads to use. I’ll check that out for whenever my next round of buttonholes is (hopefully far far away)

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